World

Indonesian tsunami toll rises to 281 amid fresh warnings issued

December 24, 2018 04:18 PM

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities have confirmed the death of at least 281 people in the devastating tsunami that hit the Sunda Strait in the western part of the archipelago on Saturday night, which also left 1,016 injured. Emergency teams on Monday resumed rescue efforts.

According to the the latest figures released by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), another 57 were missing and 11,687 displaced, Efe news reported. It added that there were still victims under the rubble.

Coastal residents near Indonesia's Anak Krakatau volcano were warned earlier in the day to keep away from beaches amid fears it could trigger a new tsunami.

Head of BNPB, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, held a news conference in Java, and said: "Recommendations from (the) Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency are that people should not carry out activities on the beach and stay away from the coast for a while," he said.

"The potential for a fresh tsunami is still possible because the volcanic eruption of Anak Krakatau continues to occur, potentially triggering tsunami."

The disaster on Saturday, thought to be caused by an underwater landslide triggered by the eruption of nearby Anak Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Strait, damaged 611 houses, 69 hotels, 60 shops and 420 boats.

About 25 minutes after the eruption, a giant wave hit beaches, causing casualties and damaging houses, hotels and boats, mainly in the province of Banten, northern Java.

Pandeglang in Banten is the most affected area. It is about 100 kilometers north of the capital Jakarta and serves as a weekend getaway for its residents.

The BNPB said the casualties and damage were found in the districts of Pandeglang, Serang, South Lampung, Tanggamus and Pesawaran in Baten and Lampung (Sumatra) provinces.

Indonesia does not have a tsunami early warning system triggered by underwater landslides and volcanic activity, Nugroho told the media on Monday. The current warning system is activated by earthquakes.

He added that there were no observable signs of a tsunami so people did not have time to evacuate.

At present all recorded fatalities are Indonesian, and the toll is expected to increase.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) is providing assistance to local health services, while the UN has offered humanitarian and logistical assistance, mainly for transport and to set up mobile kitchens. The Indonesian Red Cross is providing first aid.

"Current emergency handling priorities are coordination, evacuation, search and rescue of victims, health services, handling refugees, repairing emergency damaged infrastructure," the BNPB said Monday.

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa), with an altitude of about 300 metre, which grows by about 6.8 meters per year, was formed as a result of the 1883 explosion of the legendary Krakatoa, which cost the lives of more than 36,000 people.

According to historical records, the explosions were so violent that they were heard 5,000 km away and ash columns reached 80 km high. The effects of the eruption were felt around the world for weeks.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activity that is shaken every year by some 7,000 earthquakes, most of them are moderate.

Between the last July and August, several earthquakes caused 564 deaths on the island of Lombok, while an earthquake followed by a tsunami caused more than 2,000 deaths on the island of Sulawesi in September.

The Sunda Strait tsunami occurred four days before the anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit northern Sumatra and another 14 countries on Dec. 26, 2004, leaving 226,500 dead and missing, mostly in Indonesia.

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